So you’re starting a blog and need some advice to design it – you’ve come to the right place!  You definitely don’t need a design degree to create something attractive, and these guidelines are a great place to start.  Good design follows a few basic rules that don’t require you to create anything fancy in Photoshop or other expensive software.

First impressions are so important, so think of your home page as a window to your blog.  The readers should be able to look through the window and see what they’re getting.  As such, doing things like using high quality imagery, simple navigation and a minimal design are great ways to create a good first impression.

1. Embrace White Space

First and foremost, it’s important to avoid a cluttered looking blog, so this is a great time to embrace the white space.  Using a white background creates a brightness that is clean and enticing, whereas a dark colored background makes text hard to read and appears more cluttered than it is.  First impressions are everything in web design, and a minimalistic homepage that is bright, clean and informative shows your readers that you know what you’re talking about.  Below is an example of a cluttered home page and a clean home page – which would you rather read?

2.Tell Me Why I’m Here

If someone comes to your blog with no background knowledge, he or she should be able to determine what you write about through the homepage.  Get to the point – through imagery, headlines or a tagline in your header.  Don’t be vague, because people are unlikely to spend much time digging through the depths of your blog to figure out what you do.  In order to build an audience in your niche and retain readership, remind readers what they’re there to learn and why your blog is important.

3. Simplicity in Navigation

Branching off from number two, it’s important to have simple navigation.  Create categories that are descriptive so readers don’t have to search for what they’re looking for.  If you have a lot of different categories, create broad headers and narrow them down in drop down menus.

4. Optimize for Mobile

In this day and age, many of your readers will be viewing your site on a mobile device.  It’s important to have a striking homepage that can grab attention, but this needs to apply to both desktop and mobile.  By not optimizing your site for mobile, you immediately lose a huge chunk of readership.  Read more here about how to optimize your site for mobile.

5. Stand Out from the Crowd

What makes your blog unique?  Similar to finding your niche in blogging, your blog should look different in a positive way.  It’s important to look at successful blogs in your niche and see what works for them, but if there are a bunch of carbon copies out there, readers will get bored and move on because they’ll assume your blog is the same as the rest.  Try using a unique color or creating a standout logo – something to grab the attention of your audience and make your brand memorable.

6. Consistency in Design is Key

Once you’ve established a brand identity, it’s important to keep the look and feel consistent throughout your blog.  This creates a cohesion that is very professional.  The preview images should have the same treatment, fonts should be the same and any design elements should be carried on throughout the blog.  If every page looks different, it will be increasingly difficult to establish your identity as a blog.

7. Use High Quality Imagery

It’s great to use your own photos on your blog, but it’s also great to use stock imagery and support other artists.  Whatever you choose to do, make sure the imagery is high quality with good lighting and interesting subject matter that is descriptive of your blog.  Also, be sure to give credit where credit is due.  Read everything you need to know about stock imagery, as well as where to find free images in the creative commons, here.

8.What’s in a Name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  But a blog by any other name may be forgotten.  This was the hardest part of starting my blog, because I needed something that embodied my brand and told people what I was about.  It seems like such a permanent decision to make, and it is, but it should not consume you because it’s not what people will remember your blog by.  However, it should be concise and easy to remember.  If you need help choosing a name, read more about how I choose Creative Roots and choosing a name for your blog here.

9. Leave Your Mark

Put your logo everywhere – in your header, on your images, etc.  This is part of building your brand identity, which you can read more about here.  Increasing visibility of your brand every chance you get helps establish your brand in the minds of your readers.   A logo is the best way to create a recognizable brand without having to write out your full title.

If you have any questions or want to run some ideas by me, feel free to reach out!  I’d love to help you out and see what you’re working on.